Awestruck! That would be the one word I would use to describe Innsbruck. All around, towering over you, are the mountains. The jagged rock spires of the Nordkette range are incredibly majestic and are your backdrop for this beautiful alpine town. Being surrounded by ski slopes during the winter and mountainous hiking trails during the summer makes this a must-see destination for any adventurous traveller. There are only three places that have held the honour of hosting the Olympics more than once, and Innsbruck is one of them. Not adventurous? No problem, this town has enough charm and tourist attractions to capture anyone’s interest. Here are the top things to do in Innsbruck. 

How Innsbruck got its name

Innsbruck, known as the capital of the Alps, dates back as far as the 1100s. It was then that a bridge was built over the river allowing access to either side of the Inn River. So that is how it got its name, Innsbruck when translated, means the bridge over the inn.
Today, there are 12 bridges that connect Innsbruck’s 20 districts. The most popular bridge – with locals and tourists alike – is Innbrücke. It bears the city’s coat of arms and is a much-photographed landmark.

When to go to Innsbruck

Innsbruck can be enjoyed in every season, however, the most popular times to go are summer and winter. Almost everyone who travels the Tirol region during the winter is drawn to this area for its winter sports. Top things to do in Innsbruck in winter:

  • Axamer Lizum, just 20 km from the city centre offers a snow park and race park
  • Patscherkofel, a former Olympic venue, features a Children’s World and a snow park for freestylers
  • Cross-country skiing locations are Glungezer, Kalte Kuchl, Schartenkogel, and Halsmarter
  • Igls Bobsleigh Centre where you can try luge, skeleton, and bobsleigh runs
  • Bergisel Ski Jump which towers over the city on the lush Bergisel Hill
  • Take a scenic cable car ride- there are a series of 4 starting at the Hungerburg Funicular and ending with the Hafelekar peak offering the highest viewing point and incredible panoramic views.    
  • Visit Olympia SkiWorld collective where you can ski the Alps, ski jump 

Top Things to Do in Innsbruck

Innsbruck makes a great day trip from its neighbouring Germany. It is small enough that you can easily enjoy this city for a day but also has enough to do for a short weekend stay. Here are the top Innsbruck highlights and what to see in Innsbruck.  

OLD TOWN

Innsbruck offers visitors a fairy tale old town or Altstadt. It is chock-full of 13th to 14th century Baroque and Gothic architecture. All of these beautiful buildings house museums, galleries, shops, restaurants, and cafes. The colourful buildings in the old town are decorated with wall murals and intricate metal signs hanging above the shop doors, all to indicate what lies inside. Strolling through these attractive streets is one of the best things to see in Innsbruck. 

THE GOLDEN ROOF and STADTTURM

One of the most popular attractions in Innsbruck is The Golden Roof or Goldenes Dachl. This top attraction is located in Old Town. Its tiny balcony was to serve as a royal box to enjoy the square below. It’s adorned with 2,657 gilded copper tiles that glisten in the sun.

The building beside The Golden Roof is Stadtturm. It is a medieval structure built in the 1400s and was used as a prison. Today, it is a watchtower and is definitely a standout building with its contrasting orangey-red walls.   

HELBING HAUS and COURT CHURCH

The building directly across from The Golden Roof is my favourite. The impressive Helbling Haus is one of the finest and most elaborate Baroque buildings in town. The intricate details are simply amazing, aren’t they?

The Court Church or Gothic Hofkirche was built in 1553 as a memorial to the Emporer’s grandfather, Maximillian I. The real showstopper is the interior, full of wonderful Renaissance and Gothic details.

MARIA TERESIA STREET and TRIUMPHAL ARCH

Stroll Maria Theresia Street or  Maria Theresien Strasse to the Triumphal Arch. In doing so you will gaze upon some of the most well-preserved century homes and buildings on either side. It is such a lively street with some of Innsbruck’s best shops. In addition, Rathaus Galarie, an indoor light, bright, and airy shopping center can be found here. 

The building of the Triumphal Arch was in celebration of Emperor Leopold I and Empress Maria Theresa engagement.

HOFBURG IMPERIAL PALACE

Tour the Court Palace, the Hofburg – a former imperial palace originally built in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was later remodelled in Baroque and Rococo style in the 18th century upon instructions from Empress Maria Theresa. The palace has now been set up as a museum and is best viewed on a guided tour. 

HUNGERBURGBAHN

A fun way for Innsbruck sightseeing is to take the cable car called Hungerburgbahn. Let it take you through Innsbruck city centre over the bridge by river inn. One of the stops is near the must-see Tyrolean Folk Art Museum and adjoining Hofkirche in the new Abbey. What a relaxing and charming way to see the beautiful views of the city and all of Innsbruck attractions. 

Day trip from Innsbruck

A short drive of Innsbruck is the palatial Ambras Castle or Schloss Ambra. It was the residence of Archduke Ferdinand from 1563-95. You can tour the castle and its grounds and courtyards. 

An easy 20-km drive from Innsbruck city centre is  Swarovski Crystal Worlds or  Kristallwelten. This museum and art gallery was designed to showcase the world-famous company founded by Daniel Swarovski in 1895. Some of the most impressive displays in crystal include the Crystal Dome, the Crystal Theatre, and the enchanting Crystal Forest installations. Not to mention the exterior garden showcasing the fascinating Giant, a large landscaped waterfall in the shape of a human head that spews water from its mouth. 

As a holidaymaker…

Adventuresome or not, Innsbruck is a great place to visit, even if it’s just for one day. Sitting close to the German border, it offers a great day trip from most Bavarian towns, such as Garmisch-Partnerkirchen is only an hour away. You will be awestruck by its beauty, its charm, and its most incredible scenic views.

Don’t leave Innsbruck without indulging in one of Austria’s most famous chocolate cakes, Sachertorte, filled with apricot jam and a shot of rum. This rich treat, served with a strong coffee, in a tiny café is the best way to round out your day of sightseeing in Innsbruck. 

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57 Comments

  1. We missed Innsbruck on our first visit to Austria. But we left knowing we want to go back. A spot in the Alps like Innsbruck would give us the full mountain experience. But I was surprised to see how beautiful the architecture is too. We would certainly plan a day trip to Swarovski Crystal Worlds if we stayed for a few days in Innsbruck.

  2. We had a short visit to Austria and had to pick just a few stops and sadly Innsbruck did not make the list. We just waved when we passed by on the train. It sure does look like a fairy tale spot in the mountain. With interesting architecture like the Golden Roof, I am sure we would wander the city for days. And of course we would not pass on a Sacher torte!

  3. I have flown in to Innsbruck many times and the scenery coming in to land is spectacular. However, as we have always been on a ski trip there has never been the opportunity to explore Innsbruck itself. I am promising myself that this will be rectified as soon as possible. Innsbruck looks absolutely beautiful with so much interesting achitecture. The Golden Roof is exquisite, but like you, I think my favourite would be Helbling Haus.

    1. What an impressive sight it must be from the air! I’m glad to hear that one of your future ski trips will include going to visit the Old Town. The architecture is stunning, and there are so many great restaurants to choose from. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I would love to spend a couple of weeks exploring the history and character of the buildings, all set with such a magnificent backdrop. I am sure there are some fantatic book shops and coffee shops to enjoy. Absolutely beautiful!

  5. What a fascinating mix of architecture. Baroque is my favorite, too! I think the Golden Roof in the old town looks as though it has Asian influences? I never knew Innsbruck was named for the bridge (and so many, now)! I love all this interesting facts and lore. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Jacqueline for your comment. I see what your saying about the Asian influences in that Golden Roof, I wish I knew a little more about it to pass along more facts.

  6. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of Innsbruck before, but I’m so glad you wrote this post because it’s definitely going on my must-visit list for Europe! The buildings are incredible, but I think I’d agree that I’m most impressed by the Helbling Haus. It looks like it’s made of fine porcelain!

    1. I am so glad I was able to introduce a new place to some people who haven’t heard much about this picturesque place. Thanks for your comment Kevin.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Best time to go? I think it all depends on what you like to do. It really is that destination for all seasons. If you are a skier, then definitely the winter. The focus is on outdoor activities like skiing, skating, hiking, ice rock scaling, luge and more. We went in the spring and it was so vibrant with flowers, the snow still on the Alps and the rivers were icy blue colour. So pretty.

  7. I would just love to go to Austria and Innsbruck, in particular. Those facades on the buildings are lovely. I would love to sit at a café indulge in sachertorte, people watch and stare at the Alps! That does it… it’s officially on the bucket list!

  8. I love this little town nestled in the mountains… The coloured facades are adorable! I can imagine a tram ride followed by a hot chocolate and cake, perfect way to explore the Austrian Alps!

    1. Thanks you Delphine, I am so glad you agree that would make for the perfect way to spend your day too!

  9. I’m an avid skier so this places looks perfect for that, but also those in my family that don’t ski!! I love all the colours and history of the place. I would definitely love to go sometime

    1. If you are a skier then definitely this needs to be your destination! Thanks for your comment Lydia.

  10. There is just something about Austria and its mountain towns nestled into the Alps. Been ages since I have been to Innsbruck, and my mum absolutely loved the city (along with Salzburg), but your post brought back a lot of memories. Time to go back I think.

  11. Those mountains!! I want to visit Innsbruck sooo much! One of my husband’s best friends grew up in the mountains near here, we’ve been waiting for him to propose so we can visit Innsbruck for his wedding…but he is so slow. We might just have to give up and go before they around to getting hitched.

    Your photos are gorgeous Renee! You always give me extra wanderlust!

    1. Thank you for your comment Tania. Agreed, can you imagine if you get to call Hebling Haus home? Hopefully the interior is just as well preserved as the exterior.

  12. I have never heard of this place and the landscape is absolutely stunning. I also love the architecture. The history behind the Triumphal Arch was so interesting. I can now see why there is both joy and mourning gin the design!

    1. Thank you Candy for you for comment. Yes, you can’t beat a city nestled into the Alps, it is definitely very picturesque.

  13. I always love reading all these historical buildings you find in your travels. This place is an exciting and magnificent place to explore. I am in awe of the details of each building, especially Maria Teresia Street.

    1. Thank you so much April! I am so glad you like them. Definitely this town is well preserved and has beautiful architecture.

  14. Gosh, I want to spend some time in the Alps and Innsbruck looks like a gorgeous place to visit. Not sure I feel brave enough to try my hand at skiing, but I think it would be great to just wander around. Innsbruck always makes me think of Hemingway, since I think he went on a ski vacation here with his first wife in the 1920s.

    1. Thanks for your comment Ada! I read Ernest in Love and can’t remember where it was, but you are right he did ski in this area.

  15. I visited Innsbruck about 30 years ago, on a short trip to Austria. The architecture is so lovely, and of course, the history of Austria and how it impacted Europe is undeniable. It’s probably time to go and visit again, strolling along the majestic Maria-Teresia Street!

    1. I am wondering how your perspective would change after 30 years of a return visit! Thanks for you comment Patricia.

  16. I have only been to Vienna and Salzburg but wanted to go to Innsbruck. I like how it got its name and will definitely have to look for the bridge. I LOVE ornate baroque architecture and the Helbling Haus and the Gothic Hofkirche would be at the top of my photography list. They are absolutely gorgeous! I know all about the sachertorte. I had a few different ones in Vienna including the original!

    1. Thank you Heather, for your comment. The bridge is likely most popular because of the views it offers – the colourful buildings set against the Alps with the pretty river flowing by. It is definitely a photogenic city with lots of Baroque buildings, I definitely think you would love it!

    1. Thank you for your comment Krystianna. This was just a teaser for me too, I only went to Salzburg and Innsbruck while driving through the Alps and would love to return too!

  17. Looks like a must-see city with the beautiful mountains all around! I love your title – just appropriate. I have visited Vienna and Salzburg but not Innsbruck. Your pictures are really awesome! Will mark this place for my next visit. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Jan. I am so glad you think the title is well suited- I kind of thought so! 🙂 I have yet to visit Vienna, but have been to Salzburg a couple of times. Innsbruck is my favourite.

  18. Innsbruck looks gorgeous – I love your photos! Those ornate buildings are just so beautiful, especially set against the backdrop of the mountains. One day, I’ll get there. I’d love to sit at a cafe and munch on Sachertorte while enjoying that view 😀

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment Carrie Ann. I hope you get there one day too! And, it sounds like you love my idea of enjoying the view with a piece of Sachertorte.

  19. I have visited Innsbruck in the winter when the snow was thick everywhere but it looks so magical in summer that I think I would like to return. Such pretty pastel buildings all around.

    1. Thank you Angela for your comment. I was wondering the same, when I visited during May, I thought what must this city look like with a blanket of snow?! When we were there it was very lush and green everywhere.

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